The Reality of “The Decision”
The second LeBron James crushed the hearts of all Cavaliers fans; he also crushed the dreams, professionalism, bipartisanship, and egos of several other people as well. It is simply astonishing how practically every basketball fan was sucked into the summer of LeBron and glued to the T.V. when “The Decision” finally aired. It drew particularly special interest from fans of teams who felt their squad had a legitimate shot at signing the 2 time MVP. But even if you were a Golden State Warriors or Minnesota Timberwolves fan, you were probably intrigued as to where LeBron James was going to play this coming season anyway. When he finally announced he would play in Miami after a series of several unnecessary questions, the nation reacted. The only city that was thrilled with joy was Miami. The only people that were ecstatic were Miami Heat fans and the all of a sudden "Miami Heat fans." The bandwagon is never full.
The rest of the nation felt betrayed, disgusted, disappointed, sad, and even angry. Cleveland fans were upset, and rightfully so. They just lost the biggest star that Cleveland sports had ever witnessed (No pun intended) since Jim Brown. They hoped that James could bring them their long awaited NBA championship, but it just didn’t happen. Fans cursed, cried, and even decided to go for the mysterious ritual of lighting jerseys on fire. It is easy to feel for the fans that were just crushed by the departure of LeBron, but it was more admirable of the fans that stood up without burning anything and knew that Cleveland was more than just one man. The Cavaliers will obviously have to go through a rebuilding process, one that may be a bit tougher to swallow than a rebuilding project that occurs because a player retires (Jordan with the Bulls) or a team is dismantled (1997 Marlins). Never the less, Cleveland will live, and one way or the other, the Cleveland Cavaliers will be a winning team again.
Now here comes the real deal. One thing of interest that has me caught up in frustration with the national reaction is that how obvious it is that people are always looking out for their own interests but criticize James for looking out for his own. Yes, LeBron James abandoned Cleveland and he did it in a not so honorable fashion. Still, the fact is that he was looking out for what made him happy. Life is too short not to be happy. He is a 25 year old multi millionaire NBA superstar. Before “The Decision,” most people in the media felt LeBron James was the best player in the NBA, even though he had never won a championship. His overwhelming MVP votes prove that to be true. This is not to say Kobe or anyone else is not better, but this was the way things were presented to the public. He was undoubtedly the face of the league.
Once his decision was made, the world turned against him. So now people say the worst of LeBron James as a man and as a basketball player. It's funny to read reports and blogs from Cleveland Cavalier writers and fans when they let everything out as if they had been holding it in for years, because quite frankly some of them have. When James was a Cavalier, everyone spoke of how great he was and many were willing to argue endlessly to defend him. But once he left, everything changed. Dan Gilbert went on to write one of the most classless and childish letters I have ever read. It doesn’t matter what team you support, what Gilbert wrote about LeBron was inexcusable and Gilbert was appropriately fined for his actions by Commissioner Stern. I imagine Gilbert would have never said anything to LeBron had he stayed, not as long as he was banking because of James, showing he is the ultimate hypocrite.
If James would have stayed put, Cleveland fans would have inevitably stuck by him even if opposing fans of other teams were to criticize LeBron for having a loser’s mentality or how he used free agency to soothe his ego. Instead, the man chose winning and that was what made him happiest. He took 15 million dollars less to play with good friends Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh who also are hungry for an NBA championship. I realize the lack of state income tax saves LeBron some money, but not 15 million dollars. LeBron did not just choose Miami to win one championship; Pat Riley talked LeBron into thinking big, as in dynasty big.
How can one be blamed for that?
How is that cowardly?
How is that NOT the mentality of a competitor?
Isn’t winning why we play the game?
Why would wanting something bigger than just "big" be a bad thing if the opportunity is right in front of you?
It is easy to say from a completely different perspective that you would have never done such a thing. But that perspective is tainted. Think of the theory of original position by John Rawls. If you were all of a sudden to become LeBron James and all of these events leading to your big decision have occurred, what would you do? From a rational point of view, no one can honestly disregard the good things that can happen by going to Miami. At the same time, there are also possible bad points as to why not. If things like enduring endless criticism are too much, then there is a downside. Surely there are several people who will say that they would have done differently, especially in the way his decision was announced in the first place. Some may be telling the truth, but until you are actually there, one can’t really say. I’ll tell you what though, no matter who you are, it would have been awfully tough to pass up going to Miami. Miami brings LeBron James a city where he can enjoy his youth. This is not a knock on Cleveland which is a wonderful place, but Miami offers warm weather, celebrity gatherings, 50 million dollar mansions, south beach, beautiful women, great night life, and no state income tax. Not to mention the Miami Heat is run by Pat Riley, who knows how to win, and is an ideal coaching back drop incase things don’t work out with Spoelstra. Miami preaches 1st class organization and stability. No player has disagreed that is how the Miami Heat organization is run. Micky Arison is one of the best and richest owners in the league and everyone from Tim Hardaway to Alonzo Mourning will tell you no different. They have openly expressed that their experiences being a part of the Miami Heat were incredible. LeBron sought the opportunity to team up with two other elite talents to chase a dream that most can never attain. The truth of the matter is LeBron found that going to Miami was ideal for him. There is nothing wrong with doing what you feel is best for you when everyone else does the same exact thing.
So former NBA stars Charles Barkley and Michael Jordan come out to criticize the move LeBron James made. Barkley claims James can now never be MJ, because he did not win as “The Man.” Forgive me for sounding rational when I say the concept of being the "alpha dog" on a team is drastically overrated. It is also non-existent. The only reason the idea of the "alpha dog" exists is because of ego. Charles Barkley never won an NBA championship, so what does his opinion matter? He was a great player but also an "alpha dog" who simply was not enough on his own, so he went to Houston to try and get a ring when he was already on the decline. That didn’t work out. So why chase a golden opportunity when you have nothing left in the tank? Also, what if James never wanted to be MJ? What if he wants to be Magic? Or what if he wants to just be LeBron James? No logical person can sit here and argue that LBJ is not one of the greatest talents the league has ever seen and that he is arguably the most physically gifted player to ever don an NBA uniform. Not being MJ is OK, being LBJ with 5 rings sounds nice too. For all the size, speed, range, and/or athleticism of world talents like MJ, Magic, Bird, and Dr. J, no one possesses all of those gifts at such a specialty like LeBron. But apparently, none of that matters anymore. LBJ is public enemy #1 so everything he does will be taken more seriously than it ought to be. Then we have MJ himself who claims he never would have called Magic and Bird to team up because he was competing against those guys and was trying to beat them. Funny, I don’t remember Jordan ever being in such a position to choose his destination and/or teammates. He signed an 8 year deal with the Bulls early in his career not allowing him such flexibility. He finally was able to leave the Bulls when he made his come back during the 96' championship season (Signing 3 straight 1 year deals), but he had no need to leave. The Bulls were a winning team without him, and prior to MJ's departure, they had won 3 straight NBA titles. I don't remember Jordan winning anything on his own until Pippen developed into an all star. I recall Jordan in the 80’s being unable to beat Magic or Bird, who were hogging the titles. Magic had Kareem and Worthy, while Bird had McHale and Parrish. So Jordan was just losing while they were around and didn’t start winning until the 90’s when Magic and Bird were on their way out.
Here is something that amuses me: Some act as if though it won’t be competitive anymore. Let me get this straight, because of James, Wade, and Bosh teaming up, there is no more competition? What about Allen, Pierce, Garnett and Rondo? What about Kidd, Dirk, Butler, and Terry? What about Kobe, Gasol, Artest, and Odom? What about Howard, Carter, Nelson, and Lewis? What about Durant, Westbrook, and Green? The counter argument is that now it will be a two team race for the title because Miami and LA are the only teams that will contend consistently for the next few years. Look, it’s not as if all 30 teams are equal contenders every season anyway. There are always a handful of contending teams every season. So does everyone just want to see another Lakers dynasty? Boston and LA have won the most championships in history; they have also won the last 3! Where is the competition in that? I think change here is good. So when they say there is no competition now, understand that Miami just did the opposite, they created competition and opposing fans/teams are terrified.
Let’s also look at this from a brand and financial perspective. The media now claims LeBron’s brand and image are tarnished. I guarantee LeBron will continue to sell and make millions off the court, and if he wins championships, it will actually boost his brand (#1 selling jersey right now). Titles will cement his legacy and show the world he truly did put winning before his ego. He will show he did not put winning before the idea of trying to be someone else but himself. LeBron James wants to be LeBron James and with his move to Miami, he showed the world that is who he is. Whether you like it or not is up to you. Fans on the global scale will buy into that though. The United States roughly 310 million people, yet people forget to consider the opportunities in other parts of the world that would make his brand bigger than ever by actually winning championships. Kobe is very popular in China, more so than LeBron. Why? It's all about the rings. I urge everyone though not to lose sight of honest perspective and logic. Polls that feature LeBron have him always on the losing end. Fans do not admit the truth anymore; they are blinded by hatred, envy, or resentment, so they vote against LeBron and the Heat because they use emotion and not their mind.
In the end none of that matters, because the real deal will be on the court. Excuse LeBron for not caring about having the team he plays for known as “LeBron’s team.” The fact is LeBron, Wade, and Bosh are simply Miami Heat players and no one “owns” the team. Jordan ruined the idea of "team" with the way he presented himself. The 80’s showed the concept of team work and the pistons and spurs have showed flashes that the philosophy of TEAM still works today and forever will. This new Miami Heat team also will help struggling teams make money when they come visit. Fans will sell out the arena to watch the Heat play. This is money for the owners and the league because attendance and ratings will go up. The media never the less has it out for LeBron, they make it seem as if they are full of jealousy and rage so they write off the Heat and write off James in every way possible no matter how ridiculously stupid they look. A lot of these people are considered “experts” for some unknown reason I have yet to understand. They come up with stories and situations how it won’t work out and how it shouldn’t work out for the sake of the NBA. I call that pathetic and sad. ESPN’s Ric Bucher showed how resented and offended he was that LeBron did not do what he thought he would do. Check his tweets; there is not even a necessity to read between the lines. His ego took a hit but he is just one of many.
Soon enough all of this will pass and sports will present us with the next thing to hate and criticize. It would seem that is something we all are too constantly guilty of. I would never be one to ask people to tone down their passion and the loyalty for their city and team, but losing perspective just shows weakness. It is not fair for LeBron James to be despised the way he is. You can hate him from a sports perspective, but things got a bit extreme. No one would like it either if they were treated the way James was. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel sorry for him. I got my own things to worry about and I could only hope to make a portion of the money he makes. I know there are many out there as well who understand this is nothing but sports and we all have more important things to do beyond worrying about LeBron's reputation.